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- “He has no control over the darkness in his heart. The Keyblade is not his to bear. He's an abomination beyond hope of salvation.”
- ―Master Xehanort to Terra
Vanitas, also known as The Masked Boy, is a Keyblade wielder and is the secondary antagonist in Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep. He is the second apprentice of Master Xehanort, the embodiment of the extracted darkness from Ventus's heart and the source of the Unversed.
Four years prior to Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, Ventus served as Master Xehanort's original apprentice. The Keyblade wielder was sent to the Keyblade Graveyard, where he was forced by his master to face several Heartless in an attempt to forge the χ-blade. Ventus was unable to use his darkness, and was knocked unconscious. Master Xehanort then proceeded to use his Keyblade to unlock Ventus' heart, extracting the darkness within and forming a young boy in a mask who is then given the name "Vanitas" by Master Xehanort.
At first, Vanitas was born as a faceless being much like a Heartless, but with red eyes. The first thing he felt was sadness for his separation from Ventus, but that sadness soon turns to hate and contempt for what he considers his weakness, which eventually turns into self-hatred. What followed was an intense uncertainty towards himself as he started to question his own existence. From these feelings, he created the Unversed as a result. When Vanitas destroyed them however, they simply were re-absorbed into Vanitas and he felt the very pain he inflicted onto the creatures, creating even more negativity and more Unversed that. When a newborn heart came in contact with Ventus' fractured heart, he also directly contacts Vanitas' heart. This caused Vanitas to receive the face that the heart belonged to.
To allow both Ventus and Vanitas to grow without destroying each other, Xehanort took Ventus to the Land of Departure to be trained by Eraqus while Vanitas remained with Xehanort. After Ventus leaves, however, Vanitas starts to miss him greatly, and he wonders why they were separated from each other. This causes him to feel miserable and anxious about his future without Ventus, and the more he thinks about these questions, the more anxious, irritated, and lonely he feels, and the more Unversed form. In a rage, Vanitas begins to destroy the Unversed, creating a cycle of perpetuating pain and suffering. As Vanitas suffers from the trauma, Master Xehanort convinces him to help Xehanort recreate the χ-blade and reunite with Ventus to end the suffering. Vanitas agrees to the plan and becomes Master Xehanort's apprentice.
Physical appearanceVanitas wears a black and red organic-looking bodysuit, which is quite similar to Riku's Dark Mode. He wears a silver helmet covered with dark glass, hiding his face from view. Just before he possesses Ventus, he unmasks himself, revealing that he looks identical to Sora, although he possesses golden-yellow eyes, jet-black hair, paler skin, and a more muscular build. In an interview with Tetsuya Nomura, it is revealed that this similarity is due to Sora's heart connecting with Ventus near the beginning of the game, and had anyone else connected with Ventus's heart, Vanitas would look like that person. His appearance prior to Ventus's connection with Sora was that of a humanoid creature similar to a Heartless but with red eyes, strikingly similar to the Anti Black Coat.
He normally wields his personal Keyblade, the Void Gear, that is colored primarily in red and black, with two blue eyes like the Soul Eater, Way to the Dawn, Chaos Ripper, and Master Xehanort's Keyblade. But while fighting Ventus, he gains the incomplete χ-blade. Also when he fuses with Ventus, he gains the complete χ-blade and alters Ventus' body with his yellow eyes and bodysuit.
- “There, you're gonna see me choke the life out of Terra and Aqua. Then we'll see how long you play the pacifist.”
- ―Vanitas to Ventus
As the "dark" half of Ventus' heart, Vanitas was at first much like him. However, due to the suffering he endured by the hands of Master Xehanort, and his desperate desire for salvation, he became proud, cunning, and cruel in order to achieve enough strength to forge the χ-Blade with Ventus, believing that to be the salvation he desires. As such, the lives of others, including that of even Master Xehanort, hold absolutely no value to him, and he shows zero remorse for his actions. As a pragmatist, he will strike without a moment's thought, warning, or hesitation, as seen when he ambushes Aqua in the Keyblade Graveyard and attempts to eliminate her.
Vanitas is shown to be an uncaring, cold, and ruthless individual, having not the slightest sympathy for anyone but himself. Despite his loyalty to Master Xehanort, he has no qualms with defying his orders if he feels the need arises; he attempts to eliminate Ventus after defeating him in their first battle despite knowing full well that Master Xehanort needed Ventus alive for his plans, arrogantly stating that Ventus was no longer necessary. He also possesses a high degree of arrogance, believing his skills surpass all others, including Ventus'; in his first fight with Aqua, he claims that he will be the only one that will walk away alive, even bursting into a fit of laughter upon defeat. This extreme overconfidence in his abilities usually leads to his downfall as he underestimates his opponents when fighting.
Despite his calm surface, Vanitas is contemptuous towards everything and everyone who find happiness, and is actually resentful of his other half over the friends that Ventus managed to find. This is due to his excruciating past training with Xehanort and the feelings he developed from the separation. Vanitas also holds concern and fear over his being, shown when he has been defeated by Ventus for the final time and made a desperate attempt to grab the floating χ-blade as his only way of salvation before dying.
Powers and abilitiesVanitas is a skilled and extremely aggressive opponent, showing a mastery in both magic and wielding the Keyblade. His nature as a being of darkness gives him complete control over the element, which not only allows him to use dark magic, but also teleport, infuse his Keyblade with dark energy, or surround himself in darkness. In combat, Vanitas relies on physical combos and magic at once and in succession, overwhelming his opponents especially in close combat. He is swift and agile, able to perform complicated and nearly impossible acrobatic feats such as jumping off of a high cliff while landing squarely on his feet, and even riding a cloud of flying Keyblades. He can teleport behind opponents at high speeds to launch attacks while leaving after-images of himself to confuse them.
Vanitas wields the Void Gear Keyblade. When fused with Ventus, Vanitas gains the ability to wield the most powerful Keyblade of all, the χ-blade.
Vanitas' arguably most dangerous and destructive ability, however, is the power to create and control the Unversed. As he was born from the purest form of darkness, Vanitas can manipulate negative emotions and spawn them as Unversed, and reabsorb the negativity of any defeated Unversed.
Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep
After Master Xehanort views the battle between Terra and Aqua as part of their Mark of Mastery exam, he leaves the room to find a hidden Vanitas awaiting him. The two converse about Ventus, and Vanitas claims that Ventus' performance was weak, and he still needs to "break that loser in." Master Xehanort instructs him to do so somewhere else as he needed to keep up appearances. Vanitas complies, deciding to give Ventus an "incentive" to leave home. Vanitas later appears before Ventus in his room, speaking of Terra being a different person, and that Ventus should follow and try to help him before it's too late. Ventus becomes very defensive, saying that they will always be friends. Vanitas is unimpressed and simply mocks his friendship with Terra. He then vanishes into a Corridor of Darkness, claiming that unless Ventus sees it for himself and looks beyond his "tiny world," he will never know the truth.
Vanitas then travels to different worlds, spreading his Unversed across them in hopes of making Ventus strong enough to forge the χ-blade.
After his first few ventures throughout the worlds, Ventus spots Vanitas in the Lanes Between and is lured to the Keyblade Graveyard. Ventus interrogates the masked boy about his claims that Terra has changed, but Vanitas simply repeats what he said before and challenges Ventus to a duel, revealing his Keyblade. Despite Ventus' best efforts, Vanitas easily gains the upper hand and knocks Ventus to the ground. Just as Vanitas is about to execute the coup de grace, Mickey Mouse appears out of nowhere to heal Ventus, then reprimands Vanitas for using his Keyblade maliciously. Together, Mickey and Ventus defeat Vanitas, but the boy simply leaves the world after warning Ventus that he is on "probation".
After the battle against the Trinity Armor in Radiant Garden, the ensuing argument forces Terra, Ventus, and Aqua to go their separate ways. While Aqua is in the Central Square, Vanitas appears, taunting her by calmly inquiring about Ventus and if he has gotten stronger. When Aqua asks what he means, Vanitas becomes hostile, stating that he is asking the questions as he claims that between the two of them, he will be the only one who will walk away alive, and attacks, the two fighting a vicious battle with Aqua as the victor. After the duel, Aqua attempts to unmask Vanitas while he is unconscious, but the dark enigma quickly recovers, startling her with an insane laugh. He then compliments her skill and congratulates her on her victory, making an ambiguous comment about her being his backup plan, revealing that it was all a ruse to test her strength. Ventus returns to Aqua's side just as he leaves in another Corridor of Darkness.
While in Neverland, Vanitas encounters and kidnaps Mickey on Master Xehanort's orders to use Mickey as bait to lure Ventus back to the Keyblade Graveyard. Though the fight is not shown, it is clear Vanitas won. The villain later crosses paths with Aqua again, this time with Ventus' cherished Wooden Keyblade. Vanitas cruelly mocks Aqua for playing treasure hunter with the "kiddies", proceeding to tell her that, with Ventus' newfound strength, he has "outgrown" the toy, and then snaps it in half, an act that both enrages and horrifies Aqua. Throwing the pieces aside, Vanitas also claims that he has outgrown his need for Aqua as his backup plan and draws his Keyblade, intent on eliminating her. Aqua, outraged by the act of cruelty and at the thought of Ventus being in danger, calls Vanitas a freak and battles the dark enigma once again, soundly defeating him and knocking him unconscious. Aqua, believing she has finally finished Vanitas, and exhausted by the battle, passes out, as a revived Vanitas takes the opportunity to escape once again.
Vanitas encounters Ventus again in Destiny Islands, after the latter is thrown through a portal summoned by Terra. Ventus initially tells Vanitas that he is through with him. But Vanitas simply tells him that since he is strong enough, Ventus can join with him to forge the χ-blade. Ventus refuses, claiming that the χ-blade cannot be forged if he does not fight. Vanitas, though slightly angered, remains unfazed, responding only by coldly stating that Ventus was once "too broken to talk back." Then, in the ensuing flashback, Vanitas explains his birth from the darkness in Ventus' heart, and how he took his place as Master Xehanort's apprentice. This causes Ventus great pain in regaining his memories. Vanitas then gives Ventus a reason to fight, challenging the boy to come find him in the Keyblade Graveyard, the one and only place where the χ-blade can be forged, where he threatens Terra and Aqua's lives to see how long Ventus will "play the pacifist." He then disappears into a Corridor of Darkness. Ventus, haunted by Vanitas' deranged threats, and determined to end this once and for all, goes to the Keyblade Graveyard.
When Terra, Ventus, and Aqua approach their final battle with Vanitas and Master Xehanort at the Keyblade Graveyard, intense battles ensue. The two villains meet up with the trio, with Master Xehanort explaining his ultimate goal for the χ-blade. The trio armors up and Terra quickly charges towards them. Master Xehanort intervenes, however, blocking Terra's path with massive rock formations. As Terra continues to pursue Master Xehanort, Vanitas goes after Aqua and Ventus, riding on a cloud of Keyblades Master Xehanort created. The two fight valiantly against the dark apprentice, but not before Vanitas returns to Master Xehanort's side before the latter freezes Ventus. He battles Terra alongside Master Xehanort, who later commands Vanitas to go after Ventus and Aqua again.
Vanitas attacks Aqua from above, knocking her unconscious with a devastating blow, and prepares to impale her through the chest while Ventus lies helpless and frozen. Ventus summons all of his willpower, however, and thaws out of the ice to face Vanitas in battle, defeating him once again. Vanitas compliments Ventus on his skill and finally reveals his face, explaining himself to be the source of all Unversed. Glowing with dark energy, Vanitas then summons several Flood Unversed to restrain Ventus as he proudly explains his plan: to spread the Unversed across the worlds, in hopes of luring Ventus from home and making him strong enough to forge the χ-blade. He then forcefully integrates into him. In a burst of light, Vanitas and Ventus are transported to the Dive to the Heart. Ventus' pillar now hosts a picture of Vanitas alongside his own. Vanitas wields an incomplete version of the χ-blade.
Vanitas claims their union was incomplete, and they only managed to make a fraction of the χ-blade. He then tries to join with Ventus once again, but Ventus refuses, vowing to defeat Vanitas and destroy the χ-blade. The dark apprentice simply laughs, confident in the fact that they both know that if the χ-blade is destroyed, Ventus' heart would vanish forever. However, Ventus rebukes him, saying he will fight for his friends and destroy both him and the χ-blade no matter what, even if the price is his heart, despite Vanitas' mocking of his reason to fight. The two Keyblade wielders then begin a final showdown in the Dive to the Heart.
While Ventus battles Vanitas in their shared mind, Aqua and Mickey in the Keyblade Graveyard are attacked by Ventus-Vanitas, who summons the completed χ-blade, and tries to attack Aqua, only for her to be saved by Mickey. He then goes on to explain that he plans to unlock Kingdom Hearts so the worlds can be connected and the legendary Keyblade War can begin again. Aqua, sick of Vanitas' nonsense, confronts him in battle one last time. As Aqua defeats her possessed friend and destroys the χ-blade, Vanitas's metaphysical battle with Ventus, Aqua and Mickey comes to an end after he shatters the pillar on which they were fighting. Ventus finally lays a finishing blow on Vanitas, who loses his grip on the incomplete χ-blade and helplessly gropes for it as it shatters. Vanitas is apparently destroyed, taking all Unversed in existence with him and he is never seen and heard from again, relinquishing his control over Ventus. Unfortunately, it is a victory, as Ventus loses his heart and falls into a coma in the process.
- “Even if you are not the prisoner.”
- ―Vanitas to Sora
When Young Xehanort appears before Sora within the cathedral at La Cité des Cloches, Ventus's heart reacts within Sora and allows him to see an image of Vanitas. In unison, the youth and Vanitas claim that Sora has made his heart into a prison, then vanish.
- Vanitas's name is derived from the Latin word for "Vanity" or "Emptiness", and was chosen for its meaning, that it sounded similar to "Ventus", and that it was a written pun on in Japanese.
- After the character's first spoken line, Nomura made a joke saying that he was to voice Vanitas. Nomura also stated in another interview that Vanitas' identity was familiar and perhaps also shocking. It was later revealed that Vanitas was voiced by Miyu Irino, the Japanese voice actor for Sora. According to Tetsuya Nomura, Irino had said for a while that he wanted to play an evil character, and Nomura jokingly stated he sort of got carried away with it.
- The songs associated with Vanitas - "Enter the Darkness", "Enter the Void" and "Unbreakable Chains" - were all composed by Takeharu Ishimoto.